The top 10 romantic artworks
From the filthy to the romantic, art celebrating erotic pleasure has thrilled artists and collectors for centuries.
As Sotheby's plays host to the much-anticipated Erotic: Passion & Desire sale next week, we round up 10 of the best romantic artworks celebrating pleasure in the most sensual and provocative ways (leaving pornography aside, of course).
Just in time for Valentine's Day, this selection will make even the most liberal among you hot under the collar. Enjoy.
Thanks to his avant-garde imagery, hedonistic LSD-laced youth, tempestuous friendship with Patti Smith and tragically premature death from AIDS, Robert Mapplethorpe is immortalised in the popular imagination as the art world's ultimate bad-boy rockstar.
Inspired by American collage artists including Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, Mapplethorpe started his career as experimenting with mixed media. It was only after acquiring his first polaroid camera in 1970 that he turned his hand to photography.
His large-scale black and white celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits and still-life images of flowers earned him world wide recognition. But his controversial yet sensitive depiction of the New York underground BDSM scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s catapulted him to international fame.
His highly sexualised images thrilled and scandalised at the time of their creation. Erotic maybe, but powerful, too. His revolutionary documentation of this widely-censored scene makes Mapplethorpe one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.
Next week, Sotheby's stages its annual Erotic: Passion & Desire sale, where four of Mapplethorpe's original photographs will go under the hammer.